Stunning Data Driver retention rates in the trucking industry are the driving force for many companies to make changes to improve their overall operations and driver satisfaction.

In this attempt to make improvements, companies often look to emerging technologies as a saving grace, forgoing the traditional human aspect of doing business and potentially eliminating important roles in their operations.

Although technology plays an important role in the evolution of the transport industry towards improved standards of efficiency, sustainability and safety, not all day-to-day operations should be replaced by it. Interpersonal relationships are always an essential part of a successful business.

Combat driver retention issues with intentional communication, relationships and investments

Communication

Companies can’t keep what they don’t have. According to Tyler Damazo, Director of Midwest Operations at PGT Truckingthe key to retaining drivers is establishing a relationship based on communication, honesty and transparency from the start.

The manager-driver relationship must begin before the driver is officially hired. An early relationship helps build better communication and trust throughout a driver’s career, as personal interaction is a more effective tool than technology like email or automated messages.

Sergio Villarreal, head of U.S. and Mexico operations at PGT, uses what his team calls an “operational interview” as an opportunity for fleet managers to reach out to potential new recruits and give real-time feedback to customers. drivers to better understand everyone’s expectations, adding that this process “builds trust and transparency from the start”.

Relationships

As a fleet manager, nurturing intentional relationships with drivers is key to building loyalty.

According to Villarreal, Pennsylvania-based PGT also offers an enrichment program, focused solely on driver development, especially new (learner) drivers. The goal of the program is to connect apprentices with mentors (experienced drivers) to help them grow and succeed.

PGT believes this new program demonstrates the impact relationships can have on the future of younger or inexperienced drivers.

When it comes to the relationship between fleet manager and driver, the process of pairing drivers with managers can also make a difference. According to Damazo, PGT’s driver-to-manager ratio averages 25-to-1.

“Some companies have a ratio closer to 100 or more to 1,” Damazo said. “We try to keep the number small. We want our managers and drivers to have personal relationships outside of transporting goods and money, and if the ratio is too high, it can be difficult to maintain. A low ratio also keeps managers from being overwhelmed and gives them the opportunity to focus on their drivers and understand the drivers’ wants and needs without sacrificing quality.

Villarreal also added that many PGT managers often hold weekly face-to-face meetings to encourage drivers to raise any issues, request time off or ask questions. This gives the driver a safe space for discussion and keeps an open line of communication for future concerns.

“We want [our drivers] feel comfortable contacting their managers at any time of the day,” said Villarreal. “If our driver is on the road, we also work, whatever the circumstances.”

Robert Cowart, PGT’s terminal manager in Baltimore, agrees that being available to the driver at all times of the day is essential, especially in the world of technology.

“It’s critical not to lose that face-to-face interaction despite all the options we have to text, email or send a satellite message,” Cowart added.

Many trucking companies have implemented load selection automation in an effort to streamline load distribution and give drivers more freedom. However, these platforms potentially eliminate human interaction and, more specifically, the need for a fleet manager.

According to Damazo, PGT encourages technology for some things, but other aspects of the business need to retain the human touch. He describes the fleet manager as “the driver’s advocate”. If something is wrong, the last thing a driver wants to do is stare at a screen or talk to a robot, he added.

“We think this kind of technology leaves too much room for error,” Damazo said. “It can give drivers some freedom, but I think it hurts the driver to work only off-screen. Managers can see, do and communicate things that technology can’t. Drivers already have a lot to worry about. be done on the road, and it’s important to allow managers to do the heavy lifting for their drivers – and that’s a priority for PGT.

Investments

Growth opportunities for drivers are a critical investment companies must make to retain drivers. Drivers can take comfort in knowing they have opportunities to advance their careers where they are, such as becoming an owner-operator through a rent-to-own program, which PGT offers.

The quality of equipment is also a major aspect to consider in the trucking industry. Its regular renewal and maintenance can create a better working environment for everyone, especially truckers, who spend the most time using it.

According to PGT, the company invests in new equipment every year, including trucks, trailers and technology.

“We are investing in the future to help attract drivers,” Villarreal said. “Nobody wants to work in a company with old and obsolete equipment. When the equipment is right, the wheels turn. When the wheels spin, the driver earns money.

PGT will receive more than 210 pieces of new equipment over the next nine months, recycling older equipment and allowing the majority of its fleet to receive new trucks.

Now is the time to join the trucking industry

It’s the perfect time to become a truck driver, according to Cowart. He added that salaries, rates and volumes are at an all-time high. He said there are currently 35 loads for each driver.

For drivers who are currently looking for the right fit, Damazo recommends that they conduct individual research and talk to as many people in the industry as possible.

“Whether you’re new or you’ve been driving a truck for 25 years, we try to give as many different perspectives as possible — operations, maintenance, recruitment and permanent drivers,” he said. “Drivers looking for work should talk to as many people as possible. There are many companies that offer many different things. Be sure to do what you can to find out where you stand. Weighing your options is essential.

Relationships are essential for a sustainable business

Human relationships are essential to running any business, especially trucking. Without people, the entire logistics industry would collapse.

With over four decades of experience, PGT upholds its core value of relationships. For them, relationships are important and the company attributes its success to its people. PGT believes that ultimately, technology should not completely replace human interaction; it should just improve the experience and just help humans in order to improve productivity.

“A robot is not going to call a driver to ask him how his son’s baseball game went. A fleet manager will do that,” Damazo said. “Never minimize the relationship between a driver and his manager. It’s so critical. One cannot do this work without the other.

The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 The list of for-hire carriers includes PGT Trucking (#83).